Iron deficiency may be more common than you think. Some of the signs and symptoms can often be really vague and even confusing. In fact iron deficiency anaemia affects over one billion people worldwide.(1)
Some of the symptoms may be quite obvious like:
Whilst other symptoms are less obvious:
Brittle spoon shaped nails
Sores at the corners of your mouth
Difficulty swallowing (2)
It’s always good to get your blood tested by your General Practitioner to see whether you are in fact iron deficient and if so, there are strategies to remedy it. The first strategy we suggest is to assess your diet and make sure you are eating enough iron rich foods; some of which include: red meat, liver, green leafy vegetables, blackstrap molasses.
With diet it’s important to note that there are foods that will enhance iron absorption and foods that will inhibit iron absorption.
- Tea, coffee, alcohol, phytates (which are found in legumes and grains) and calcium may inhibit iron absorption (2,3) – so it’s important to consume these foods AWAY from your iron rich foods – 2-3 hrs after or before.
- Vitamin C on the other hand enhances iron absorption – so a squeeze of fresh orange or lemon juice over your steak with lots of greens and capsicum will help your body absorb the iron contained in these foods. (2)
Recently I read an interesting study: for 16 weeks, women with low iron stores consumed either two kiwi fruit (high in vitamin C and certain carotenoids) or one banana together with their iron fortified breakfast. At the end of the 16 weeks it was shown that the iron status improved in the randomly selected women who consumed the kiwifruit instead of the banana. (4) Not to say that bananas don’t have their own health benefits but it’s important to realise that combining certain foods can make a big difference to how your body absorbs nutrients.
So next time you are eating iron rich food – it’s a good idea to choose a food high in vitamin C like kiwifruit, capsicum, a squeeze of fresh orange or a handful of strawberries to enhance its absorption. Sometimes it’s tiny changes that you make to your diet that can have a powerful impact on your general health.
Iron deficiency is common. We see it often here in our clinic and it can be debilitating so if you have any concerns regarding any of these symptoms please make a booking to speak to one of our consultants.
Remember iron deficiency symptoms sometimes may present in ways that you might not normally associate with this particular nutrient insufficiency. In my practice a patient presented to me (after visiting her doctor to rule out any major illness) with low grade headaches, a difficulty swallowing, severe anxiety and intense fatigue – which of course was very concerning. After assessing her blood tests I treated her accordingly and on improving her iron levels through diet and a supplement, her symptoms over time improved. She also made big changes to her diet and lifestyle, eating an 80% wholefood diet and incorporating meditation and daily exercise – these changes unquestionably had a big impact on her overall health.
Don’t wait, a simple blood test and changes to your diet can make a big difference to your day to day life.
- 2014, Melbourne Haematology, http://www.melbournehaematology.com.au/fact-sheets/iron-deficiency-anaemia.html
- Higdon J, 2003, An Evidence-Based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals, Thieme, New York pages 138-142
- Hechtman L, 2012, Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Elsevier, Australia, pages 82 -84
- Beck K et al,2010, Gold kiwifruit consumed with an iron-fortified breakfast cereal meal improves iron status in women with low iron stores: a 16-week randomized controlled trial, British journal of nutrition